So How Did Pete’s Apizza Make It Onto the President’s Radar?
If you've watched the video of President Obama touting his small-business credit initiatives — and damn you, C-SPAN, for not offering an embed function — you had to wonder how the hell Pete's Apizza ever rose to the Oval Office's attention.
"These steps will make a difference for more small businesses like Pete's [pause] Apizza in Washington, D.C.," the president says in his speech. "I recommend it. Everybody go out there."
The way co-owner Joel Mehr explains it, Pete's was the beneficiary of a bank tour. It seems that Mehr's bank, City First Bank of D.C., gave folks with the Treasury Department a tour of some small businesses that received loans from the U Street institution. One was Pete's. (Mehr noted that City First was the only bank that didn't need twice in collateral what the loan was worth.)
Mehr says he got a call last night from someone with Treasury, who started asking all kinds of questions about Pete's, trying to confirm information about the Columbia Heights pizzeria. The co-owner says he even spent about 10 minutes trying to explain why the name is pronounced "A-beets," not "a-pizza."
"So after a lot of who-what who-ha," Mehr says, "I find out that the president may be mentioning us" in a speech about small business loans the next day.
The Treasury official also said that, should Mehr clear the Secret Service background check, he could attend the speech at a small family-owned business in Landover. He should hear back, one way or another, that very night, the official apparently told Mehr. He didn't.
The White House official who called Mehr the next morning didn't have an invitation, either. He just wanted to confirm information. Mehr mentioned, once again, how to pronounce his pizzeria's name.
Then at 11 a.m. as Mehr was getting a haircut, he got a phone call. He was officially invited to the speech. He had to be there in 90 minutes. Welcome to government efficiency.
Mehr made it to the speech in time to hear President Obama call Pete's Apizza "Pete's A-pizza." No matter to Mehr. The pizzeria owner is just hoping to enjoy an Obama bump, like the one Ray's Hell Burger got.
So has he seen any uptick yet?
"No," Mehr says at around 5:30 p.m., "there's nobody in the restaurant now."
Really, no one?
"There's one person by the window," he says, "but it's early."
One person Mehr hasn't seen at Pete's, however, is the president himself, the very man who endorsed the establishment's New Haven-style pies. "He's not been here," Mehr says. "You'd think I'd know if he was."